2018 Telluride Mushroom Festival and the Colorado Mycoflora Project

The Telluride Mushroom Festival is a destination for both the grounded, and more ethereal mushroom enthusiast. While it has a history of catering to the latter, one thing that is true about the festival is that everyone in attendance is united by their affection for these organisms.

If you’ve spent any time exploring this website, you may have come across our About page. Telluride is located in the Southwestern portion of Colorado, and the map provided on the above page demonstrates that we have a lot of work to do to better represent the mushroom diversity in this part of the state.  This makes the Telluride Mushroom Festival a great opportunity for us, and also a great opportunity to expose the Festival’s community to this project and what we can learn from it.

Along with several other academic mycologists, Andy was invited down to help promote the Colorado Mycoflora Project through the coordination of a voucher program, providing a seminar on the project, and sitting down on a discussion panel on the theme of, “Mycology in the Molecular Biology Era … For Beginners and Citizen Scientists“. Every event was well attended and well received. There seemed to be a lot of enthusiasm for the Project, as well as curiosity in the what, why, and how of the approach to studying fungal biodiversity.

Several speakers gave excellent talks about the world of mycological research. Our own Rick Levy gave a great talk on the importance of making scientifically relevant mushroom collections. Jeff Ravage gave a talk on his mycoremediation project. Poor guy had to compete for attention against Paul Stametes who was also giving a lecture at that time, but he got a decent turnout regardless. Cathie Aime gave two talks. The first one captivated the audience with stories of her mushroom adventures in the wilderness of Guyana. The second seminar focused on the fascinating biology of the rust fungi. And perhaps the most spectacular academic lecture I’ve ever witnessed was given by David Hibbett, who for his talk channeled the ghost of Theophrastus, the “father of botany”. In his talk he regaled us with mycology’s origins as an aspect of botany. He also demonstrated that we are all somewhat guilty of “ladder thinking” when we attempt to evaluate and categorize different forms of life. David gave a second seminar that was equally well received, the subject of which fed into a demonstration he gave showing how different phenotypic forms of fungi are distributed through the fungal tree of life.

As for the vouchering program that the Colorado Mycoflora Project intended to implement at Telluride, this remains a work in progress.  For one, our (=my) idea of implementing a protocol much like we had at the CMS Fair the week prior, will not really work well in this environment. We’ll likely need to resort to a more traditional format where individuals go out on individual forays and either recruit other festival attendees, sympathetic to our efforts, or provide focused forays with the intent to make collections for the Project. Another issue was how dry Telluride was for the Festival.  The ID tent had mostly bare tables.  While people were able to make collections on their forays, many of the specimens were in poor shape.  It was also challenging to get the necessary collection information from those that dropped off their specimens. This is likely a communication issue that we can do better on, and something we plan to aggressively address for future forays and festivals. Regardless, we were able to return to DBG with well over 60 collections, with the count still climbing.

A special thanks to all the folks at the Festival that helped with the vouchering and supporting the Project: Brian Barzee (you rock! sir.), ever stalwart Amy Honan, Eddie Elzarian, Alisha Quandt, Linnea Gillman, Bill Adams, Jeff Ravage, Rick Levy, Cathie Aime, David Hibbett, Mike Wood, Giuliana Furci, Trina Wilson, Bruch Reed, and John Plishke.

 

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Theophrastus possessed the body of David Hibbett and regaled the Telluride community on the history of mycology since ancient Greece.

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Cathie Aime’s second talk of the festival educated on the complicated yet charismatic nature of the rust fungi.

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Making relevant scientific collections is the goal of the Colorado Mycoflora Project, and we’re lucky to have Rick Levy help explain its importance to enthusiastic citizen scientists.

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Panel discussion on the topic: Mycology in the Molecular Biology Era … For Beginners and Citizen Scientists. From L-R: Rick Levy, Andy Wilson, John Pleschki, Cathie Aime, David Hibbett, Mike Wood, and moderator Giuliana Furci.

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David holding court discussing the evolution of mushrooms, corals, puffballs, and other forms of macrofungi.

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Amy Honan and Eddie Elzarian at work processing Telluride mushroom specimens.

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L-R: Rick Levy, Amy Honan, Andy Wilson, Alisha Quandt, Cathie Aime, David Hibbett.

2 comments

  • This festival must have been very exciting and interesting. I am glad I can recognize Andy Wilson whom I met for the first time in Puerto Rico and my advisor Prof Cathie Aime. Glad to also see David Hibbett, a big name in the house as well as Rick, Amy and Alisha. What a great team of researchers. I like to walk in your steps one day.

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